With each project we engage with, we delve into questions such as; What kind of content should we have on your site? How should we structure the menu? What should be the first-level menu items? What should the menu links be called, and what will be the best language or terminology for your audience?
Information architecture (IA) focuses on organizing, structuring, and labeling content in an effective and sustainable way. The end goal of your website is to help users find information and/or complete tasks. Or achieving that balance between the users’ desires and the business’s needs.
Users have four fundamental questions when they arrive at a website: Am I in the right place? Do they have what I am looking for? Do they have anything better (if this isn’t what I want)? What do I do now? One of your key tasks is to make sure you do a good job at answering these questions - across every page of your site.
While content structure is vital, another part of the equation is providing information in context. For example if a user is looking to buy online airline tickets to the United States, perhaps at the end of that process it would be beneficial to show the user a page on helpful travel information such as Visa requirements? Or if they’re looking at a page titled “South Island Trout Fishing” perhaps linking to a page regarding fishing licenses in New Zealand could anticipate the user’s needs?
Dan Ramsden, a UX and IA specialist from the UK, has written about the comparison between a ladder versus a climbing wall when thinking about content structure. As mentioned, a user is typically on your website to achieve an end goal - whether that’s to obtain information, be entertained, or for a conversion such as a sale or query.
"Ladders" allow the user to proceed step by step to their end goal - but they are very linear.
A climbing wall on the other hand allows for lateral movement, which is a very human way of thinking when we are setting out to perform a task. Often the pathway isn’t straight and linear, and different users will traverse your website in different ways to obtain their goal(s). The IA and UX of your website should provide traction points, or wall holds like on a climbing wall, so that the user can take multiple pathways to reach the top (or their objective).
"Climbing walls" provide multiple lateral pathways for the user to achieve their goal.
There are a number of ways to help clarify and refine the content architecture of your website - such as persona creation, use case goal evaluation, card sorting, content auditing, wireframing and of course - user testing. Somar can offer our expertise in creating a content strategy to help your users navigate their way around your website.